Military decorations and medals
April 2011 / January 2015

SA National Defence Force : 2003-

THE South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was established in April 1994, by amalgamating the South African Defence Force, the four homeland defence forces, and the two liberation armies.

It is divided into the SA Army, the SA Air Force, the SA Navy, and the SA Military Health Service, each consisting of Regular Force (formerly Permanent Force) and Reserve Force (formerly Citizen Force and Commandos) units.
South African National Defence Force medal ribbons
The SANDF used the former SADF decorations and medals until the current series was instituted in April 2003. It consisted of eight (now nine) decorations and medals, and two emblems. An innovation is the use of different languages for the names of different awards.

Nkwe ya Gauta (NG) (2003- ) — The 'Golden Leopard', to be awarded for exceptional bravery during military operations.

Insignia: A gold 5-armed convex cross displaying a golden leopard head on a light blue roundel. A gold arm-of-service emblem, signifying an operational award, is attached to the ribbon, whose colour represents the blue crane bird feathers once used as bravery awards by African kings.

Nkwe ya Selefera (NS) (2003- ) — The 'Silver Leopard', awarded for conspicuous bravery during military operations. The first recipient was F Sgt Vasudevan Selvan SAAF.

Insignia: Same design as the NG, but in silver.

Nkwe ya Boronse (NB) (2003- ) — The 'Bronze Leopard', to be awarded for bravery during military operations.

Insignia: Same design as the NG, but in bronze.

iPhrothiya yeGolide (PG) (2003- ) — The 'Golden Protea', awarded for exceptional leadership, or exceptionally meritorious service and utmost devotion to duty.

Insignia: A gold 6-pointed star displaying a gold protea flower on a blue hexagon. A gold arm-of-service emblem is attached to the ribbon if the decoration is won during a military operation.

iPhrothiya yeSiliva (PS) (2003- ) — The "Silver Protea", awarded for outstanding leadership, or outstanding meritorious service and particular devotion to duty.

Insignia: Same design as the PG, but in silver.

iPhrothiya yeBhronzi (PB) (2003- ) — The 'Bronze Protea', awarded for leadership, or meritorious service and devotion to duty.

Insignia: Same design as the PG, but in bronze.

Tshumelo Ikatelaho (2003- ) — The 'General Service Medal', for service (minimum of one day) in specified military operations, belligerent or otherwise, from 27 April 2003 onwards.

Insignia: A nickel octagonal medal depicting a 9-pointed star in a laurel wreath. Clasps may be issued to identify individual operations; one inscribed 'Peace Support' has been issued.

Closure Commemoration Medal — Issued to mark the disbandment of the commando forces. Former members, who had completed at least five years service on or after 27 April 2003, can apply for the medal. (Sorry - I can't help with applications, but you could try the Reserve Forces Council.)

Insignia: A circular medal depicting three stacked rifles within a wreath of proteas (obverse), and the national coat of arms surrounded by the medal's name in three languages (reverse).

Mandela Medal (2014) — Awarded to medical personnel who attended to former president Nelson Mandela during his final illness in 2013, and to SANDF members who organised and carried out his state funeral. There are three categories : gold, silver and bronze. Medals for uniformed personnel have ribbons, while those for civilians do not and are not intended to be worn.

Insignia: A nine-pointed star displaying a portrait of Nelson Mandela (obverse), and the national coat of arms (reverse). A gold, silver or bronze disc is worn on the ribbon bar to indicate the category.

Medalje vir Troue Diens (2003- ) — The 'Medal for Loyal Service', awarded after 10 years irreproachable service, with clasps for additional 10-year periods. It is awarded to both regular and reserve personnel.

Insignia: A silver circular medal with a scalloped edge (similar to the old Good Service Medal), displaying the new SA coat of arms (obverse) and the SANDF emblem and 'Vir Troue Diens' (reverse).

Okhankanyiweyo (2003- ) — Awarded for brave or meritorious conduct, leadership, devotion to duty, praiseworthy service, or other distinguished conduct during military operations, which does not qualify for the award of a decoration.

Insignia: A miniature bronze SA coat of arms (the new arms, introduced in 2000), to be worn on the ribbon of the relevant campaign medal.

Emblem for Reserve Force Service (RD) (2003- ) — Awarded to Reserve Force members after 20 years service, at least five of which must have been in the Reserve Force.

Insignia: The letters RD in silver, worn on the ribbon of the Medalje vir Troue Diens, above the 20-years service clasp.

  • South Africa Government Gazette 25213 (25.07.2003) and 26778 (17.09.2004).
  • Fourie, D.; 'New Decorations and Medals for the SANDF' in SA Soldier (July 2003).
  • SANDF website.
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